Delegation for 9.7.21: No choice? — charity — border order — military spending — vax pass

Abortion becomes the hot topic again after a Texas law fails to get a SCOTUS challenge.

End of choice?

The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 proved among the most politically consequential rulings ever for the Supreme Court. It was essentially prohibiting legal restrictions on abortion based on a constitutional right to privacy, creating a wedge issue and litmus test with a judicial appointment on both sides of the aisle.

There have been various tweaks to abortion law in the near half-century since. Still, Thursday’s just-before-midnight decision threatening the end of the ruling potentially turned abortion into a hot issue in the 2022 midterms.

It wasn’t a new ruling, but a 5-4 vote not to enforce the old one by letting a Texas law go into effect that prohibits any abortions once a doctor can detect a heartbeat or about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Abortion becomes the hot topic again after a Texas law fails to get a SCOTUS challenge. Image via AP.

Typically, such a ruling would immediately see a stay by the high court, not so much because justices wanted to defend Roe as much as the very notion of settled law. But an unusual bounty system provided an argument Texas enacted a whole new type of legislation unbound by Roe.

This doesn’t mean states can now violate Roe unfettered, but with three Donald Trump-appointed justices rebalancing the court in a more conservative tilt, some wonder what’s next. That certainly includes members of the delegation.

Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, derided anyone opposing the bill, a group which he said includes some scurrilous voices, and made clear he remains a supporter of restrictions on abortion. “Satanists have joined Democrats in advocating for the murder of unborn children,” he said, tweeting a story about the controversial religion joining the fight. “I stand with God and fight for life.”

And Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, slammed President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice for fighting the Texas law.

“It is up to COURTS — not the executive branch — to determine whether the Texas law impairs constitutional rights,” he tweeted. “No court has found rights are violated. The DOJ is out of control. This is totalitarian stuff. If they don’t like a law, they will use DOJ raw power to crush it.”

But at least for now, Democrats seem to voice the most objection to the decision. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, called the SCOTUS move “grotesque.”

And many appear excited to take political advantage. Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat running for Governor, took note when Gov. Ron DeSantis said he “does support protections for life” even as he voiced caution reading too much into the Supreme Court action on DeSantis.

“What we need to be focused on is the real objective here, and that’s to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis. That will continue to be my focus. I think we have to be unified in order to make that happen and to accomplish that, and that’s exactly where my focus is going to continue to be,” said Crist, who has co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act (HR 3755) that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to bring floor vote this month.

The most relevant Florida race regarding the makeup of the Supreme Court would arguably be the Senate contest next fall. Senators hold a vote in confirming any appointments to the court Biden might make.

With Republican Sen. Marco Rubio or Democratic Rep. Val Demings, the likely Senate nominee next fall, it’s clear where each stand on abortion.

Rubio hasn’t commented on the Texas law but reintroduced a pain-capable abortion ban in the Senate with Sen. Rick Scott this year. Last month, Florida’s senior Senator slammed the Biden administration for dropping a Trump-era fight against the University of Vermont Medical Center requiring an anti-abortion individual to participate in abortion procedures.

“Your handling of this case is a profound miscarriage of justice and a rejection of your commitment to enforce federal conscience laws for Americans of all religious beliefs and creeds — and especially for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who object to abortion,” Rubio wrote.

Demings, meanwhile, has the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice America. The pro-choice Congresswoman voiced immediate anger at the SCOTUS decision.

“The war on women is not over,” she tweeted. “Last night, Texas’ radical anti-choice law went into effect. Florida could be next. Your right to choose can be taken away in an instant. Women must be able to make their own health care decisions. This fight is just beginning … This is just part of a nationwide anti-choice agenda. This terrible law could easily come to Florida next. Here’s the bottom line: your health care choices are your business between you and your doctor. Politics has no place in these choices. We’re not giving up.”

Charity clarity

The nation turned its concern to South Florida on June 24 when the Champlain Towers South condominium tower collapsed. Now Rubio and Scott want the Internal Revenue Service to offer clear guidance on how philanthropists can help. Florida’s Senate delegation issued a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to clearly explain tax law regarding gifts from charitable organizations in response to the tragedy that claimed 98 lives.

“Though several months have passed, we all continue to grieve with the victims and their families,” the letter reads.

The Surfside condo collapse could lead to IRS charity oversight. Image via AP.

The letter spotlights a few major funds already in place to help in various aspects of the tragedy.

Philanthropic organizations throughout Florida came together to establish the Support Surfside Fund, which so far raised $5 million from more than 16,500 people to provide relief to individuals and families impacted by the collapse. “According to the draft protocol issued by the National Compassion Fund, which is partnering with the Miami Foundation and others to administer the Support Surfside Fund, an online application to the fund should be made available by early October,” the letter reads.

The Shul of Bal Harbour, which lost several members in the disaster, also established the 8777 Collins Avenue Relief Fund. Also, in recent months, other emergency funds of assorted sizes opened up.

“We have heard from constituents with questions regarding the tax treatment of gifts from these and other disaster relief-related funds. In an effort to eliminate any potential ambiguity, we ask that you provide clear and definitive guidance that payments from a charitable organization as a result of the tower’s collapse are considered nontaxable gifts, as is consistent with long-standing IRS policy,” the Senators wrote.

Border order

A child separation policy and inability to keep track of families in U.S. custody created political woe for Trump. But Scott said the Biden administration isn’t doing any better.

Following an Axios report showing the federal government lost contact with a third of the migrant children released from custody, Florida’s junior Senator issued attacks in English and Spanish on the President’s handling of the border. “Joe Biden continues to show that he is woefully incapable of leading our nation and making decisions in the best interests of American families,” the Naples Republican said.

He also directed wrath at Vice President Kamala Harris, whom Biden put in charge of border policy shortly after taking office this year. Considering Harris, while running for President, heavily criticized Trump on the issue, Scott said her failures seem especially acute.

“In 2018, Biden’s ‘Border Czar’ Kamala Harris repeatedly criticized President Trump’s handling of the southern border,” he said. “Now, under her ‘leadership,’ the number of migrant children the administration has lost contact with has tripled. The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress don’t care about the border or protecting Americans — they’re playing games with the safety of our families.”

Of note, the dynamics of the policy now operate significantly differently than what took place under Trump. The former Republican administration had a policy of keeping families who crossed the border in custody but separated families without any system in place to track or reunite families once any criminal matters were settled.

Meanwhile, officials under Biden are releasing migrant children from Department of Health and Human Services shelters, supposedly to family or vetted sponsors, to quickly reunify families at the appropriate time. The Axios reporting, though, suggests that’s not happening as officials check in with the families caring for children but are unable to reach them or can’t get their calls returned.

Scott said that has resulted in chaos at the border while Trump maintained a sense of order, yet maligned.

“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ failure to uphold the law and insistence on implementing failed policies of amnesty and open borders aren’t working — it’s created the biggest border crisis we’ve seen in two decades,” Scott said. “This administration is letting savage drug cartels control our border, carelessly allowing millions of illegal immigrants into our country and a flood of drugs that are killing Americans every day. And now, their dangerous policies are putting thousands of migrant children at risk. We must secure our border now and account for every missing child handled by this administration. We can’t allow our country to continue heading down this path of destruction.”

Military spending

A markup of the National Defense Authorization Act by the House last week portends plenty of dollars to be spent in Florida.

Gaetz secured $600 million in the budget for the Northwest Florida Military Mission, including $359 million for Eglin Air Force Base and a $169-million boost for Crestview-based Vertex Aerospace, which builds the Chinook Helicopter.

“I applaud Northwest Florida’s major funding victories in this legislation,” the Congressman said. Our community is proud of our contribution to the fight. With this historic financial commitment to Eglin, we are poised to attract even more military mission, strengthening our local economy and our nation’s defenses.”

Matt Gaetz brings home some military money.

Mike Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican, also found plenty to celebrate in the budget. He noted several policy advancements tied to the bill, including requiring any U.S. contractors working in China to keep forced labor out of their supply chain, connect national security interests to research and development, and repeal a so-called “widow’s tax” regarding re-enrollment in Veterans Affairs health care regarding service-disability veterans.

“As a Green Beret and combat veteran, I know firsthand how important a well-equipped, well-prepared military force is to protect our great country,” Waltz said. “Right now, our country faces numerous threats from adversaries like China, whose technology and military capabilities are advancing rapidly, as well as emboldened terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and ISIS-K, which will now find a safe haven in Afghanistan. This year’s defense bill will help us ensure America can face these challenges and any others while protecting our strategic interests at home and abroad — all thanks to the incredible bravery and incredible skill of the men and women of our armed services.”

And Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy, vice-chair of the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, successfully spearheaded several national security measures she said will be critical moving forward. That includes requiring communication with Congress about Chinese activities in Latin American nations and quick updates when foreign governments put bounties or target U.S. service members.

The bill includes a Navy SEALs memorial in Fort Pierce, drawing from bipartisan legislation filed by Murphy and Stuart Republican Brian Mast.

“There is nothing more important than keeping the American people safe. Our country faces a complex array of threats from terrorist organizations and authoritarian countries like China, Russia and Iran,” Murphy said. “The Armed Services Committees have successfully worked in a bipartisan way to craft a bill that will deter our adversaries, support our allies and partners, and provide our troops with the resources they need to accomplish their missions and keep us safe.”

No confidence

Waltz last week called for the Armed Services Committee to hold a “no confidence” vote for Biden over his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal. The motion came during a lengthy markup of the defense authorization budget.

“This heroic performance was despite the guidance that they were getting from the White House,” Waltz said at the meeting, CSN reports. “They were put in an impossible position. They were told to defend an airfield in the middle of [a city of] 4 million people, in the middle of a retrograde and enemy contact — but also to get all Americans out, but also by a date certain.”

Michael Waltz calls for a ‘no confidence’ vote for Joe Biden.

The measure failed 31-28. Even if it passed, the measure would largely have been symbolic. And the slight proposed by Waltz still registers as less drastic than those House colleagues calling for Biden’s resignation. But it certainly drew a rise from Biden’s allies, and the close vote highlights the sharp divide in Congress about the path forward in Afghanistan.

On Twitter, Waltz stood by the step.

“Last night Democrats were outraged that I introduced a measure of no confidence in Biden,” he posted. “Here’s who should be outraged: Americans and allies left behind; Families of our fallen; Veterans calling into suicide hotlines; The family of Taliban hostage and Navy vet Mark Frerichs.”

Meanwhile, Waltz said it’s critical Secretary of State Antony Blinken to allow more private citizens in the U.S. to support efforts to evacuate Americans overseas. He wants the State Department to enable chartered plans permission to visit and land in Afghanistan.

“I am making this request because it has been brought to my attention by various NGOs that manifested flights are available, funded and ready to fly,” Waltz wrote in a letter. “Further, groups of American citizens, legal permanent residents, SIVs, and their families remain in hiding in the vicinity of airports around Afghanistan as they await diplomatic engagement on landing rights and clearance to depart from the Taliban. These groups are communicating to my office that State is not proactively arranging the appropriate clearances to take full advantage of these flights. If this is true, I am respectfully asking for the State Department to work collaboratively with these private groups as I am confident they are willing to share their manifests for appropriate vetting and prioritization in coordination with your department.”

Diaspora biz

Central Florida serves as home to one of the highest concentrations of Puerto Ricans diaspora. So, it made sense Orlando Democrat Demings hosted a roundtable with business leaders within the community last week.

“One of my top priorities in Congress is to support Florida’s small businesses,” she said. “I can’t picture our region without picturing the restaurants, shops, stores, beauticians, doctors’ offices, and countless other small businesses that bring life and community to all of us. This has been a tough pandemic, and I was proud to support the COVID-19 relief that extended billions of dollars of support and other resources to local small businesses, put money in people’s pockets, and supported our vaccination effort.”

Val Demings has been meeting with various immigrant business owners to discuss issues regarding their homelands. Image via Facebook.

Of course, as Demings wages a Senate campaign to unseat Rubio, it also seems likely the growing population of Puerto Rican voters, a left-leaning group compared to other immigrant communities in South Florida, could play a role.

But as far as content, Demings kept the conversation on services available to help various industries handle various challenges impacting their bottom line. Hosted at Achilles Art Café in Orlando, she brought in Small Business Administration regional staff, including J. “Malcolm” Richards, district director for the North Florida District, and Ed Ramos, senior area manager for the Orlando market. Also participating were Dr. Fernando Rivera with the University of Central Florida Puerto Rico Research Hub and Jorge Figueroa, president of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida.

“We are also currently working to pass major legislation to invest in our communities, rebuild our infrastructure, create millions of new jobs, cut middle-class taxes, and reduce the cost of crucial services like health care, education, child care, senior care, and more, which will put money into people’s pockets and help stimulate our economy,” she said. “I want to thank our participants today for this important discussion on how to continue to support our economy, and I invite any small-business owners seeking assistance to reach out to my office.”

Voting rights

At a news conference in Tampa with NAACP leaders, Democrat Kathy Castor vowed passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. She said new laws enacted by Republican-led state legislatures, including in Florida,

“Because of growing power of people and their ballot, they have enacted additional barriers to the ballot box that cannot stand,” she said. “It’s not fair. It’s not right. We’re not going to stand for it.”

The House already passed the federal voting rights legislation, but it hasn’t been heard in the Senate. Castor said the upper chamber must send the bill to Biden’s desk for a signature.

Kathy Castor is vowing to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Image via Facebook.

“All citizens deserve access to the ballot box, and while GOP power brokers seek to take us backward with blatant voter suppression tactics, voter roll purges, and insidious barriers to the voting booth, I am fighting to renew and strengthen the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” she tweeted. “Let’s urge our senators to restore the promise of our democracy for all Floridians. Many others who marched and struggled for the right to vote didn’t give up, and we won’t either.”

Pins or passports?

The controversy around a Sarasota restaurant policy surrounded a recent speaking event for Steube. The Congressman spoke at a Republican Women’s Club at Michael’s on East, a regular venue for political events in his district. But some conservative groups expressed frustration at a pinning policy for vaccinated employees.

The establishment, at least before the delta variant surge, allowed vaccinated employees to wear a “V” pin and go unmasked. At the same time, unvaccinated workers still had to mask up, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. That had activists with the Manatee Patriots and the Manatee Republican Liberty Caucus crying foul and asking local politicians to refuse to participate at events there.

But Steube, while voicing disagreement with the policy itself, said he would not bail on the local political group over the restaurant policy. And he said other conservatives should not bow to pressure either.

Greg Steube bristles at the idea of ‘pinning’ those who have been vaccinated. Image via Facebook.

“While I disagree with Michael’s policies, we as Republicans believe that private businesses have the right to put their own policies in place, especially in this case they are optional and not mandatory as has been falsely portrayed,” Steube said in a statement. “A so-called liberty caucus’ misinterpretation of these policies and fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of liberty will not cause us to go back on our word and commitment to a Republican women’s organization.”

Since the business does not deny service, the policy doesn’t break a vaccine passport ban in Florida. There’s also no mandate for employees to be vaccinated, though such a requirement by private businesses is not prohibited by state law.

Censored again?

Naples Republican Byron Donalds said to count him among the politically “censored.”

The opponent of mask and vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic, he spoke to OANN about his positions, but YouTube took the interview down for violating community guidelines. The policy in question? “Medical misinformation.”

“According to Big Tech, opposing mask mandates, especially for children and speaking out against vaccine mandates, is ‘medical misinformation,’” he tweeted. “You can try and censor me, but I won’t be silenced.”

Byron Donalds (shown here with Dane Eagle) counts himself among the ‘censored’ conservatives. Image via Facebook.

Donalds at a recent town hall said he isn’t anti-mask or anti-vaccine (though he doesn’t wear one and has repeatedly said he has not received a shot) but wants that to be an individual choice.

Conservatives have complained repeatedly about more right-leaning views flagged as misinformation than liberals on major platforms. An option is available with YouTube to appeal the decision, but the private platform maintains the right to decide what appears.

Notably, Donalds remained able to share the interview itself on Twitter.

State lines

One state process that federal officials will be sure to fixate on the spring will be Congressional redistricting. Now, Congressmen know which Florida lawmakers to badger.

While it was announced months back that redistricting would be led by state Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Rep. Tom Leek, legislative leaders have now announced state Rep. Tyler Sirois will head the Florida House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee. State Sen. Jennifer Bradley will lead the Senate Congressional Reapportionment Subcommittee.

Ray Rodrigues is the point man on redistricting. Image via Colin Hackley.

“My goal is 10 years from now members look back on this process and be proud of it and know we followed state and federal law and followed the constitutional process,” Sirois said.

The subcommittees will produce the maps dividing Florida down to 28 equal parts down to a single voter. The lines will be sent to Gov. DeSantis for approval and likely be in effect for the 2022 midterms when every member of the House delegation stands for reelection.

Over the hill

There’s a comms opening at Steube’s House office.

The Sarasota Republican’s communications director, Carson Steelman, announced she’s taking an offer from Athos PR. She completed work on the hill Friday and will transition to a new job as a senior account executive at the firm, which takes on business, media and political clients.

Carson Steelman is taking leave of Capitol Hill.

“Maybe I’m biased, but I am so lucky that I’ve gotten to work for the two best delegations on the Hill,” Steelman wrote in an email announcing the move. “I am so grateful to Rep. Greg Steube and Rep. Mark Walker for having me as part of their incredible teams for Florida and North Carolina.”

Besides her work in those Congressional offices, Steelman also served as an intern for retired Rep. Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican.

On this day

Sept. 7, 1913 — “United States nicknamed Uncle Sam” via — The name links to Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story, and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for — and personification of — the U.S. federal government. In the late 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast began popularizing the image of Uncle Sam.

Sept. 7, 1977 — “U.S. gives up Panama Canal” via History Central — The United States and Panama signed the Torrijos-Carter Treaty revoking the treaty of 1903, which had granted the U.S. control of the Panama Canal forever. The new agreement called for the Panamanian control of the Canal by the year 2000. The continued American ownership of the Panama Canal resulted in growing protests in Panama, supported throughout South America. President Jimmy Carter helped to reach a treaty with Panama to return control of the Canal. The United States and Panama, under the leadership of General Omar Torrijos, reached an accord that would restore complete control of the Canal to the Panamanians.


Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles.

Staff Reports


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Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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